Family Fun in Baton Rouge
My philosophy is that if we are going to dedicate our limited time and money to travel somewhere, we are going to see the heck out of it. We can relax at home (whether we do or not is a different story); when we travel, we don't waste opportunities. This is why we were up and out of our room bright and early on our first full day in Baton Rouge - otherwise, we would have had to drop something from our schedule and that was not an option I was going to entertain.
We started our morning at the Red Stick Farmers Market, a short walk from our hotel.
We enjoy visiting farmers markets, both at home and when we travel. This one was small but lively and the produce was gorgeous.
We grabbed a quick breakfast, then headed to the Capitol. First, a tour of the grounds.
Check out how cool this monument is. Through the cut-out of the soldier, you can see Louisiana's liberty bell.
Inside the Capitol, we were greeted by Bernard, all decked out in his holiday best. At least, I assume that's not his year-round outfit.
Bernard (or perhaps one of his brown pelican relatives) is featured prominently both inside and outside the Capitol. There he is in the stonework.
Here's Trevor getting his 24th stamp in The Capitol Connection.
We checked out the main lobby and the House and Senate chambers...
... before heading up to the tower. Fun fact: Louisiana has the tallest state capitol building (450 feet and 34 floors) of all the 50 states.
The first elevator takes you to the 24th floor, where you board a smaller elevator to get to the observation deck on the 27th floor. The views are spectacular.
In addition to being the nation's tallest, Louisiana's Capitol holds the dubious honor of being the only one in which its seated governor (Huey Long) was assassinated. He is buried on the grounds. More about him later.
Next, we went to the outstanding Louisiana Capitol Park Museum.
It has wonderful displays about the history of the state, plus a section that showcases each region of Louisiana. It does an excellent job portraying diversity of Louisiana.
I particularly appreciated honest exhibits on Louisiana's ugly history with slavery. Information about slave markets, resistance, revolt, and Jim Crow laws are interspersed with exhibits highlighting the many contributions people of color made to Louisiana.
So were these wooden flamingos. They are part of a beloved Baton Rouge tradition that I adore. We'd go on to see dozens and dozens of these flamingos all over Baton Rouge.
We could have spent much more time at the Louisiana Capitol Park Museum, but we had other appointments to keep. First, lunch at the highly recommended Capital City Grill.
I was told to try their hushpuppies, boudin balls, and fried green tomatoes, so the three of us ended up making a meal of those plus their fried okra and a cup of gumbo. Everything was outstanding.
After lunch, we crossed the street to visit the Old Capitol.
The Old Capitol is closed from mid-December to mid-January each year for maintenance, but my contact at Visit Baton Rouge arranged for the curator to open it just for us. I am so glad, because it would have been terrible to miss seeing it. It exceeded my expectations ten-fold!
Not only is the Old Capitol beautiful, but it is packed with information. I was particularly impressed with the technology they've incorporated into their exhibits. Here we listened to a speech by Huey Long. At first, his shadow was mimicking his movements...
.... but then it took on a life of its own.
After listening to the speech and learning a lot more about Huey Long, both from the perspective of his admirers and detractors, we were invited to pick a side. A week earlier, I hadn't had any opinion about Huey Long, as I'd barely heard of him. After 24 hours in Baton Rouge, I had very strong feelings about this polarizing man. I'm not a fan. This quote sums up why fairly well.
This polling booth asks kids to vote on their favorite exhibits at the museum. It was Trevor's first time using a voting machine and punch card ballots and good opportunity for me to tell him all about hanging chads.
The museum is free, but there is a small charge to watch the Ghost of the Castle show. Do not, under any circumstances, skip this movie. It blew me away. I expected a normal movie on a normal screen. Once I realized the picture frames, movie screen, and walls were all part of the show, I started snapping photos specifically so I could help you understand how cool it is. Do not miss this show.
We walked the two blocks back to our hotel to get our rental car...
... and drove to the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center.
Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center has over a mile of gravel paths and boardwalks through a cypress-tupelo swamp and hardwood forests.
But our most exciting find was this owl.
Walking along the boardwalks was really peaceful and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
After a quick visit to the indoor portion of Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, we headed back to our hotel, dropped off the car, and walked to another local favorite for dinner: Poor Boy Lloyd's.
It's a fun place.
I tried Dixie beer, a local favorite that I'd never heard of before visiting SoFAB. Dixie's reputation hasn't always been great, but I thought it was fine.
Our dinner at Poor Boy Lloyd's was also fine. The desserts, on the other hand, were SPECTACULAR. Go to Poor Boy Lloyd's and order one each of all the desserts they have. We shared a root beer float, a lemon ice box pie, and this, a Mississippi Mudd. It was to die for.
The sun was setting as we finished dessert. Look at the gorgeous photos Steve took from the river walk along the Mississippi River.
Baton Rouge is a beautiful city, full of neat things to see and do. Tomorrow I'll tell you how we spent our second full day in Louisiana's capital city.